Lift has acquired ChurchThemes and intend to enter the hosted church website market

churchthemesChurchThemes was started by Frankie Jarrett in 2011. Frankie is now the Head of WordPress Product at X-Team, makers of Stream — a product I reviewed a few months ago. Frankie also talked about Stream and ChurchThemes on the Matt Report recently.

Today, Lift is announcing the acquisition of ChurchThemes. Lift is a consultancy and also owner of UpThemes, a theme shop I've covered before. Lift co-founder Chris Wallace said the following for a press release that's do out tomorrow:

We met Frankie at WordCamp Austin just as we were preparing to release our first church theme, Uplifted. Once we found out Frankie was looking for a buyer for ChurchThemes, we immediately saw an opportunity to make a fantastic addition to our WordPress product lineup.

Along with the acquisition of ChurchThemes, Lift has also hired two new people to join their team.

Adam Clark is joining as the Director of Product. Adam is the founder of wptheory, a service for doing WordPress websites in one day. He's also a co-founder of Good Stuff FM podcast network, where he hosts The Gently Mad (a favorite of mine) and other shows.

Adam will be leading the day-to-day of ChurchThemes for Lift, which they hope to expand to be a hosted service for church websites, and not just self-hosted theme downloads. They want ChurchThemes to be a hub for themes, but also a marketplace for photography and other assets useful for church website builders.

Adam states in the press release that he's wanted to do a hosted church website solution for a while, having planted churches and built websites in that ecosystem, but didn't have the resources to do it.

When I met Chris and Brad [founders of Lift], it quickly became apparent that our visions for such a product were remarkably similar. In the end, we decided the best way to build something truly great was to join forces.

Adam talks more about the move on his personal blog.

Lift is also finalizing an agreement to bring on a dedicated sales and business strategy person who is fairly well known in the WordPress world.

Update: they've now announced the new hire as James Dalman. Read Lift's announcement, or check it out on James' personal blog.

Hitting a big niche market

The church market is a big one, for sure. It's been a successful niche for a handful of theme developers and I'm sure hundreds of small agencies and freelancers. Steven Gliebe's comes to mind as one that's done well on Theme Forest (Roughly $250k in lifetime revenue), and now on his own site. Unfortunately these two shops are only different in name by the .com/.net TLD extensions.

Happy Tables and Restaurant Engine are my classic examples of hosted WordPress solutions for a huge niche, and I think the church website market is big enough to have a handful of players as well. Most churches want the same kind of stuff: podcasts, events, photo galleries.

In these types of hosted markets, the technology and the solutions themselves are second to the marketing and the consistent investment into building the business that's required. Some of Brian Casel's podcasts about running Restaurant Engine are really good to listen to if you're interested in the hosted market.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Lift will do in this space. They've got a big enough and good enough team, and I think they will be able to sustain the passion and marketing levels that are required to make something like this a success.

Buying a successful theme business will be easier than marketing their own, and I think acquiring ChurchThemes gives them a nice head start into the church theme and website world.